Another US campus rejection of establishment zionism
This posting has these items:
1) Jewish Forward: Swarthmore Hillel Defies Headquarters on Boycott Israel Program Restrictions;
2) Muzzlewatch: This is huge: Swarthmore Hillel breaks with Israel policy;
3) Monndoweiss: Defying Hillel rules;
4) Jewish Press: Hillel CEO: You can’t use our name if you reject zionism;
5) Notes and links. Hillel, person and organisation, plus;
Campus Group Condemns Guidelines for Constricting Jewish Student Debate
By Derek Kwait, Jewish Forward
December 09, 2013.
Swarthmore College’s Hillel student board voted unanimously Sunday to defy guidelines restricting whom it may host for programs on Israel and condemned the ground rules, imposed by Hillel International, for constricting Israel-related speech for Jewish students on campus.
The vote marked the first time a Hillel student board declared its intent to override the parent body’s guidelines, which prohibit a Hillel center from hosting or partnering with any group or individual that — among other things — supports sanction or boycott campaigns against Israel, or that “delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double standard to Israel.”
“This policy has resulted in the barring of speakers from organizations such as Breaking the Silence and [members of] the Israeli Knesset from speaking at Hillels without censorship,” the resolution said.
Breaking the Silence, a group composed of Israeli army veterans, has been barred at some Hillel centers for its focus on discussing ways in which it says the demands of military service in the Israeli-occupied West Bank corrode soldiers’ moral standards, and those of the Israeli Army itself.
Although the Swarthmore Hillel has not yet invited controversial speakers to campus, what is important is that the center can in the future if and when there is a student demand to hear the views of such speakers, said Joshua Wolfsun, a Swarthmore undergrad and director of communications for the Hillel.
According to Wolfsun, Swarthmore Hillel has little worry about regarding local censure or financial repercussions that might come from inviting speakers to campus who are not regarded as pro-Israel. “We had a fair amount of autonomy on this decision,” Wolfsun said. “We are funded by our own endowment and have no board of overseers.”
Wolfsun said that since passing its resolution, the Swarthmore Hillel had sent two emails to Hillel President and CEO Eric Fingerhut but has yet to hear back from him. The Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, with which the Swarthmore center is affiliated, has also not yet been in touch, he said. Representatives for neither of these organizations were immediately available for comment for this article.
In approving the resolution, Swarthmore Hillel’s student board declared itself an “open Hillel,” invoking a movement founded in late 2012 by that name. The Open Hillel movement bills itself as a “student-run campaign to encourage inclusivity and open discourse at campus Hillels,” specifically in regard to changing the “standards of partnership” enumerated in Hillel International’s guidelines on what kind of Israel programs Hillel centers may and may not host.
“All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist,” the Swarthmore center declared in its statement.
The student board cited a recent decision by the Hillel center at Harvard University to bar Abraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli Knesset and Jewish Agency chairman, from speaking under its roof as an immediate cause for its decision. The Harvard Hillel center objected to the fact that Burg’s talk was cosponsored by Harvard College’s Palestinian Solidarity Committee.
Invoking the Roman-era rabbi known for his tolerance, after whom the organization is named, the board stated, “We believe these guidelines…are antithetical to the Jewish values that the name ‘Hillel’ should invoke. We seek to reclaim this name. We seek to turn Hillel — at Swarthmore, in the Greater Philadelphia region, nationally, and internationally – into a place that has a reputation for constructive discourse and free speech.”
December 09, 2013
Our friends at the Open Hillel campaign have won a landmark victory in their efforts to transform campus Hillel chapter into spaces that welcome all Jews, instead of marginalizing those who oppose Israel’s discriminatory policies. The passage of this resolution by the Swarthmore Hillel Student Board is a historic event, and a victory for all who support a more inclusive vision of Jewish community:
Swarthmore Hillel is an Open Hillel
Unanimously adopted by Swarthmore Hillel Student Board, December 8, 2013
Whereas Hillel International prohibits partnering with, hosting, or housing anyone who (a) denies the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double standard to Israel, (c) supports boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel;
And whereas this policy has resulted in the barring of speakers from organizations such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from speaking at Hillels without censorship, and has resulted in Jewish Voice for Peace not being welcome under the Hillel umbrella;
And whereas this policy runs counter to the values espoused by our namesake, Rabbi Hillel, who was famed for encouraging debate in contrast with Rabbi Shammai;
And whereas Hillel, while purporting to support all Jewish Campus Life, presents a monolithic face pertaining to Zionism that does not accurately reflect the diverse opinions of young American Jews;
And whereas Hillel’s statement that Israel is a core element of Jewish life and a gateway to Jewish identification for students does not allow space for others who perceive it as irrelevant to their Judaism;
And whereas Hillel International’s Israel guidelines privilege only one perspective on Zionism, and make others unwelcome;
And whereas the goals of fostering a diverse community and supporting all Jewish life on campus cannot be met when Hillel International’s guidelines are in place;
Therefore be it resolved that Swarthmore Hillel declares itself to be an Open Hillel; an organization that supports Jewish life in all its forms; an organization that is a religious and cultural group whose purpose is not to advocate for one single political view, but rather to open up space that encourages dialogue within the diverse and pluralistic Jewish student body and the larger community at Swarthmore; an organization that will host and partner with any speaker at the discretion of the board, regardless of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines; and an organization that will always strive to be in keeping with the values of open debate and discourse espoused by Rabbi Hillel.
By Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss
December 09, 2013
Two weeks ago, an Israeli speaker was barred from Harvard Hillel because he was sponsored by a Palestinian solidarity committee. Over the weekend the Swarthmore College Hillel responded with a stunning and unanimous declaration: We defy Hillel International’s rules.
Here are two statements. First, a press release announcing the refusal to accept the international body’s guidelines on speakers and putting out a welcome mat for anti-Zionists, post-Zionists, non-Zionists, everyone. (And not just Jews.) And below that, the resolution itself.
(The Jewish Press has reported this news, angrily [see below]. Swarthmore Hillel’s Josh Wolfsun says there’s been no response to the resolution yet.)
Notice particularly the invocation of “our namesake,” Rabbi Hillel, who believed in open debate. Notice the defiant statements about “the true face of young American Jews” against the “monolithic face” that Hillel wants the Jewish community to have. Shattering.
Also hark to the way these young people are now instructing their elders about the mission:
we need to constantly wrestle with how best to meet the collective needs of a diverse community. We need to create a space that is safe and welcoming for all.
For all. In a diverse community. Swarthmore is redefining the modern Jewish community.
1. Swarthmore Hillel declares itself an Open Hillel
By Swarthmore Hillel Board, 2013-2014
On November 11, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset Avraham Burg was supposed to give a talk on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Harvard Hillel house. Instead, Hillel barred him from speaking at the Hillel house, and he ended up giving his talk in an undergraduate dormitory on campus. The reason he was barred? His talk was co-sponsored by the Harvard College Palestinian Solidarity Committee.
Sadly, for organizations bearing the name “Hillel,” situations like these are all too common. Across the country, many Hillels have banned Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli soldiers that facilitates talks about the Israeli military and West Bank occupation. Jewish Voice for Peace, which seeks “peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East,” has never been allowed to affiliate with Hillels. On some campuses, J Street has had a difficult time working with Hillels, and events co-sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine or Palestine Solidarity Committees have often been banned.
Across the country, Hillels’ suppression of the freedom to speak and believe things that are not narrowly pro-Zionist are the direct result of Hillel International’s Israel Guidelines. Right after stating in their “Political Pluralism” section that they object to excluding “students for their beliefs and expressions,” they declare that they “will not partner with, house, or host” – in other words, they will exclude – groups and speakers that espouse certain beliefs about Israel. These contraband beliefs include denying the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state and supporting boycotting, divesting, or sanctions against Israel. They also ban those who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel.” No further explanation is provided to clarify these guidelines, but their ambiguity has done nothing to ease the stifling effect they have on individual Hillels’ freedoms of speech, belief, and association. These guidelines would exclude speakers with views like those of Peter Beinart, Judith Butler, and Noam Chomsky.
Hillel, billing itself as the “Foundation for Jewish Campus Life,” is seen by many as the face of the American Jewish college population. And due to these policies, it is a face that is often seen to be monolithically Zionist, increasingly uncooperative, and completely uninterested in real pluralistic, open dialogue and discussion.
We do not believe this is the true face of young American Jews.
In fact, we do not believe there is only one face of young American Jews. We believe there are many faces of this diverse population. In our community, we find this diversity in the conversations we have with each other in our Sukkah, in the group of students meeting in a college coffee bar to discuss Talmudic conceptions of angels, and in the songs we sing together after a Shabbat meal. If we are truly devoted to fostering Jewish Campus Life, we need to constantly wrestle with how best to meet the collective needs of a diverse community. We need to create a space that is safe and welcoming for all. We need to a create a space that invites difference – difference of opinion, difference of belief, difference of background, difference of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
This is hard work. But if we are going to bear the name of Rabbi Hillel, we cannot expect anything less to be asked of us. Rabbi Hillel valued Jewish debate and difference – it was at the core of his practice. We do the same. For us, that is what the name Hillel symbolizes.
Therefore, we choose to depart from the Israel guidelines of Hillel International. We believe these guidelines, and the actions that have stemmed from them, are antithetical to the Jewish values that the name “Hillel” should invoke. We seek to reclaim this name. We seek to turn Hillel – at Swarthmore, in the Greater Philadelphia region, nationally, and internationally – into a place that has a reputation for constructive discourse and free speech. We refuse to surrender the name of this Rabbi who encouraged dialogue to those who seek to limit it.
To that end, Swarthmore Hillel hereby declares itself to be an Open Hillel. All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist. We are an institution that seeks to foster spirited debate, constructive dialogue, and a safe space for all, in keeping with the Jewish tradition. We are an Open Hillel.
We invite you to join us.
Hillel’s new CEO sets the standard: Hillel’s name carries benefits and responsibilities. To acquire the benefits you must accept the responsibilities.
By Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press
December 11, 2013
In a swift, decisive move, Eric Fingerhut, the new president and chief executive officer of Hillel International informed the head of Swarthmore College’s (former) Hillel just who is in the driver’s seat when it comes to making policy decisions.
The Swarthmore chapter’s unanimous vote on Sunday, Dec. 8, to reject Hillel guidelines regarding Israel, means it cannot use the name Hillel. “Let me be very clear – ‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances,” Fingerhut wrote, in response to Swarthmore Hillel’s resolution to reject the national Hillel guidelines. The Swarthmore resolution included this: “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist.”
The Swarthmore student board’s unanimous decision to reject the national guidelines and instead become part of a movement known as “Open Hillel” is the first such vote at any campus. The Open Hillel movement rejects any restrictions on speakers or partnerships with groups, including those which, under Hillel’s Israel guidelines, would be barred because they engage in “demonization, delegitimization or applying double standards to Israel,” or support the economic and legal warfare movement known as the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel. But those in the Open Hillel movement still want to benefit from having the name recognition, the established campus presence and the money available to chapters of the Hillel Foundation.
In fact, while the Swarthmore group boasted that all of its funding comes from a Swarthmore endowment, giving it financial independence from the Hillel Foundation, its website suggests that the independence is overstated.
Fingerhut made clear that he rejected any claim that his move restricts freedom of speech or freedom of association.
Hillel recognizes, of course, that “organizations, groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice” violate these guidelines may well be welcomed on campus, according to the policies of the particular college or university. The Hillel on campus, however, may not partner with or host such groups or speakers. This is entirely within our discretion as an organization, and we have clearly stated our intention to make these important decisions to protect our values and our critically important mission. Just as the university decides who will teach classes, and what organizations it will allow on campus, so Hillel will decide who will lead discussions in programs it sponsors and with whom it will partner.
Fingerhut also summarily disposed of the claim of Hillel-ier than thou that the Open Hillel movement likes to espouse. The Swarthmore group and others in the Open Hillel movement wave around its alleged mirroring of Rabbi Hillel, the namesake of the campus movement, who was a great teacher and leader who engaged in discussion with those with whom he disagreed. “However,” said Fingerhut, “Rabbi Hillel is perhaps more famous for his saying in Pirkei Avot, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’”
In closing, Fingerhut wrote of Hillel International being the true son of Rabbi Hillel:
We here at Hillel International hold firm to his legacy. We encourage debate and dissent, but we draw the line at hosting groups who would deny the right of the State of Israel to exist. We will stand with Israel, the democratic, open, pluralistic home of the Jewish people.
On that fundamental principle, we are unwavering. The entire statement can be found at Fingerhut’s homepage. The local Federation paper, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, reveals that there are more details to be worked out. It quotes what it refers to as the “Hillel of Greater Philadelphia’s staff person at Swarthmore, Rabbi Kelilah Miller,” who, presumably receives support, training, communications or other benefits from being affiliated with Hillel. But Miller said she plans to “challenge the students to live up to the commitments they expressed in the resolution they adopted.” In other words, she’s committed to ensuring the students continue to thumb their nose at Hillel’s guidelines. Let’s hope she’s also committed to keeping her’s [sic] and their hands out of Hillel International’s pockets.
Notes and links
Hillel – person and organization
Hillel on campus
Jewish Virtual Library
Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, is the world’s largest Jewish campus organization with chapters in 55 countries across 5 continents. Hillel was originally founded in 1923 at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and was subsequently adopted by B’nai Brith International. Hillel is named after the biblical Rabbi Hillel, who is regarded as having layed the foundations for the spiritual and intellectual movement of Judaism’s tannaitic period (200-400 CE).
From Jewish Virtual Library
In the first century BCE, Babylonian born Hillel (later known as Hillel the Elder) migrated to the Land of Israel to study and worked as a woodcutter, eventually becoming the most influential force in Jewish life. Hillel is said to have lived in such great poverty that he was sometimes unable to pay the admission fee to study Torah, and because of him that fee was abolished. He was known for his kindness, gentleness, concern for humanity. One of his most famous sayings, recorded in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, a tractate of the Mishnah), is “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”
The Hillel organization, a network of Jewish college student organizations, is named for him. Hillel and his descendants established academies of learning and were the leaders of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel for several centuries. The Hillel dynasty ended with the death of Hillel II in 365 CE.